Thoughts for missionaries and their supporters — Part 1

By Kenneth D. MacHarg

Several years ago I had the privilege and honor of being the keynote speaker at the annual missionary conference in Honduras. This is an event that welcomes all Christian missionaries in the country regardless of their denomination or mission agency.

In addition to presenting five major messages, I also offered the participants two “bonus” presentations designed to provide support, guidance and food for thought.

I share these now with you, the faithful readers of my blog. If you are a missionary, I hope you will take them to heart. If not, perhaps you know a missionary or your church supports one and you could pass this on.

Below is the first “bonus” message. I will post the second one in a few days. Please share these with missionaries you know, your church mission team, or others who might benefit.

Refreshment Plan

Matthew 25: 23: “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

I want to take just a few minutes to address something that I have been pondering ever since our time serving as the interim pastor at the International Christian Fellowship church here in Honduras.

During those months, we met many of you either at the conference or at church or in other settings. We heard stories of what you are doing, the children rescued from deplorable conditions that now are living in cleanliness and love and tranquility.

We heard about churches being planted, people being mentored and restored, families being fed, wells being dug, bodies being healed, souls being saved.

We were, to tell the truth, overwhelmed by what missionaries of Jesus Christ are doing in this country, with the people, how you are giving your lives in service.

What a joy to know you and to hear you and to pray for you.

But, as we talked with missionaries here, in San Pedro Sula and other places, we picked up two stresses, two warning signs, two challenges which many of you face that I would like to address quickly but strongly.

Now, don’t misunderstand. I’m not just some old guy telling a bunch of young whippersnappers how they ought to live their lives and carry out the ministry God has given them.

Nor, I hope, am I just an old grouch venting my spleen.

What I say, I say in complete love, appreciation and concern for you.

So, take a deep breath, sit back, and just listen—not to me—but to the Lord.

  1. Many of you are tired. Worn out. Fatigued. Yes, burned out.
  2. You run day and night (especially if you are working with children), day after day, week after week, month after month.
  3. The phone rings constantly, people knock on your door at all hours, supplies must be bought, work coordinated, government regulations complied with, shipments sprung from aduana (customs), visas applied for in migracíon (immigration), prayer letters written, demanding work teams housed, guided, entertained, construction completed, sick people cared for, crying children comforted, meals cooked…it goes on and on.
  4. And, one thing I learned last year was that while you are faithful at your work, complete in your leadership, trusting with what has been given to you, while you are all of these things, you are absolutely terrible, lacking, disorganized, systematic and just baaaad at…taking a break, getting a rest, going on vacation, getting away from it all.
  5. And, let me tell you just a few things that you may think would be taking a break, but aren’t.
    1. Taking a weekend off to write and address and mail your prayer letters. No way—that’s part of your work, it’s in the job description, sooner or later you will be forced to go home because of low support levels if you don’t do it. So, it’s not vacation, a day off, a rest to do your prayer letters.
    2. Going on furlough. If you think that furlough is a restful vacation…It’s work, hard work, demanding, stressful, enjoyable, yes, but work.
    3. A change of pace—while refreshing and perhaps enjoyable, isn’t a vacation. Coming to this retreat is a change of pace, but it’s not getting away from our work.
  6. What is a break, a vacation? That’s for you to determine. For some it’s a week away from the funny farm just sleeping, watching TV, reading, playing with grandchildren. For others it’s a few days at the beach or in the mountains, or a trip to the city—eating in good restaurants, taking in a movie or two, shopping at the malls, visiting friends. For others it may be a grand tour of Europe, a visit to family back home, hiking, camping—you name it.
  7. Yes, you name it, but whatever you name it, do it! Because if you don’t the whole thing will come crashing down around you eventually.


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